A m‚lange of tales of sea-going, or at least sea-connected, women, where the often fragmentary information can still pique
a yen to sign on for the voyage.
New Zealander Druett (Hen Frigates, 1998) specializes in maritime history, and in this volume, presents a crew of
adventurous women from around the world and through the centuries. Here are stories of Greek queen Artemis, who commanded
the flagship of a small fleet against the Athenian navy; of the "bloodthirsty warrior queen" Teuta of Illyria, who terrorized the
Mediterranean coast with her fleet of privateers, and even of Cleopatra, who commanded not only the hearts of Caesar and
Antony, but the Egyptian fleet at Actium. Although accurate historical records are often thin, don’t forget Alfhild, a terrifying
Danish marauder of c. 900 b.c.; Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate queen of the 16th century; and Cheng I Sao, a 19th-century
woman who organized a federation of pirates that dominated the China Sea. Anne Bonny and Mary Read were celebrated 18th-
century Caribbean buccaneers, but more typical heroines were the women who backed their men financially, like Sarah Kidd, wife
of the notorious Captain William Kidd, or ran their businesses. The exploits of the convict women transported to Australia are
described, as are tales of women who donned men’s clothes and signed on as crew or as helpmates to their officer husbands.
Among more sweeping contributions, Lady Jane Franklin virtually opened up the Arctic by sponsoring a ten-year mission to locate
her explorer husband, lost in 1845, and Louise Arner Boyd made many voyages to the Arctic, preserving a remarkable
photographic record of the flora, fauna, and geological conditions. A long chapter on Emma Hamilton and her relationship with
Lord Nelson seems gratuitous, as do snapshots of other women whose connection to the sea seems remote.
Still, likely to get the wind up for modern she-farers or armchair sailors. (B&w illustrations)